Despite a dramatic fall in the number of Covid-related deaths, the Government’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) Death Registration Summary for 2022 has revealed a 6.2% increase in deaths over the five-year average.
From being the single biggest killer in 2021, when it claimed 67,350 lives, Covid fell to sixth place. Last year, it was responsible for 22,454 deaths, a fall of 44,896, accounting for 3.9% of all deaths registered.
The number of deaths rose in Yorkshire & The Humber and the Southwest, while the biggest decrease was in Greater London, which saw nearly 5,000 fewer deaths in 2022 compared to 2021.
The steep spike in the number of deaths over the five-year average was largely down to the increase in the number of dementia and heart disease cases. The single leading cause of death in England and Wales in 2022 was dementia/Alzheimer’s disease. While dementia was responsible for 15% of all female deaths, the biggest single killer of men was ischaemic heart disease, the cause of 13.3% of all male deaths. This figure has prompted a leading medical testing expert to call for an increase in heart testing to prevent unnecessary deaths.
Dr Avinash Hari Narayanan (MBChB), Clinical Lead at London Medical Laboratory, said, ‘It’s disappointing to see that – while deaths fell against 2021 because Covid-related deaths declined dramatically last year – there was still a 6.2% climb in deaths over the five-year average for 2016 to 2019 and 2021. While dementia and Alzheimer’s, the leading cause of death in England and Wales last year, are not yet preventable, many heart conditions certainly are, if caught at the right time. There were more male deaths registered (292,064 deaths) than female (285,096 deaths) in 2022 and heart disease was the cause of 38,730 deaths among men.
‘Not that heart disease only impacts men. In fact, it was the cause of 65,967 deaths across both men and women. Heart disease was the second largest killer of women after dementia. That’s higher than the number of breast cancer deaths across most age groups.
‘We are well aware of chest pain as a symptom related to heart problems, but other clinical signs and symptoms can potentially include arm and jaw discomfort, breathlessness and swollen legs. Discomfort is commonly worse on exertion and improves with rest. These are features that should certainly prompt a discussion with a doctor.
‘That said, signs and symptoms may not always be present. That’s why body weight, BMI, body composition, waist circumference and blood pressure are all features that should be measured and tracked in the long term. Obesity is a major risk factor for heart disease that is often complicated by poor general cardiovascular fitness due to smoking and a lack of physical activity. Excessive stress can compound these factors. It can impact on us biologically and also lead to unhealthy lifestyle choices and behaviours.
‘Everyone should consider having a GP check-up and/or take regular measurements via a blood test. A simple blood test that is accessible from home via postal kits can provide vital information regarding high cholesterol, HbA1c level (for diabetes), C-reactive protein (CRP) and liver, kidney and thyroid functions. A high level of CRP in the blood signifies underlying inflammation and has been linked to an increased risk of heart attack.
‘Caught at early stages, modifying and treating heart problems either clinically with medications and/or non-clinically with exercise, diet control and improving well-being can have significant impact. There are even complex and sophisticated genetic tests available that can predict our risk of particular diseases, offering greater precision in managing health proactively. Prevention is certainly better than cure and blood testing remains highly valuable for patients and clinicians.
‘London Medical Laboratory’s Heart Health Profile blood test kit is highly accurate, quick and simple to carry out. It can be taken at home through the post, or at one of the many drop-in clinics that offer these tests across London and nationwide in over 95 selected pharmacies and health stores.’